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Westport youth’s Rock for Hope at Voices Café unites community

Rock of Hope sponsors locals struggling with food insecurity in Westport, and it was organized by Voices Café in a partnership with School of Rock (contributed by Voices Café’s Facebook page).

A rush of excitement fills Unitarian Universalist Congregation, a Westport group dedicated to social justice and community, as the School of Rock gears up for another song. Members of the audience slowly rise to dance to familiar artists ranging from Stone Temple Pilots, to the Killers and even to Adele. The room vibrates with a steady pulse as powerful drums and guitars crackle through the crowded space. 

This is the scene that greeted guests at UU Westport’s Voices Café, a group dedicated to social justice and unity within the community through performances from local artists. Westport’s School of Rock, a company focused on promoting student music careers, raised funds for Homes with Hope through the Rock of Hope concert on Nov. 11. 

 Students displayed their musical talents by playing an array of songs appealing to a wide range of age groups. The event was catered by Trader Joe’s and Planet Pizza.

Beth Cliff, the vice president of the Congregation, organized the Voices Café event to not only be a fundraiser benefiting Homes with Hope, but also to aid in the expansion of UU Westport’s demographic to incorporate a younger audience. 

“Voices [Café] has, for many years, mostly been adult folk, and we’ve been playing with the model a little bit to see if we can work with a different demographic,” Cliff said.

The planning committee and the producer of the event, Dayle Brownstein, found out that they needed to come up with different ways to advertise and market Rock of Hope to appeal to younger generations. 

“Voices Café typically reaches an older crowd, so we had to reinvent the whole marketing [process],” Brownstein said

The School of Rock, an organization targeted towards younger generations with passions for music, helped provide the desired younger audience. The audience consisted of the family and friends of band members as well as curious people who heard of the event. 

“This is the first time we’ve worked with School of Rock, and they’re awesome. This is really exciting,” Brian Connelly, a Voices Café committee member, said. 

The committee didn’t just stop there. In order to truly reach a large array of people, they realized that the event had to be free. 

Everyone sits at the welcome table. Not just adults, not just folks who are coming from one demographic. Everyone sits at the welcome table.

— senior minister Reverend Alan Taylor

“Initially we were going to charge [people coming into Voices Café], but then we decided we want everyone who wants to come to be able to,” Brownstein said.

Voices Café hosts eight events every year, often appealing to social justice causes that are prevalent in Fairfield County. Members of the Voices Café’s board, like Cliff, pick the causes that Voices Café funds through the events. 

“This particular concert is a ‘three-fer,’” Cliff said. “We’re supporting Fairfield youth, we’re supporting Homes for Hope for the food insecure and we’re supporting music and engagement in the community.” 

Voices Café is an important partner to UU Westport. Their partnership stemmed from the idea that there needed to be a welcoming place where everyone could go but also somewhere that acknowledged and contributed to causes in need.

Providing for a wide range of causes allows for more involvement from a large group of people with different passions. Some of the previous events have included those that help combat women’s rights and food insecurity. 

Transitional senior minister Reverend Alan Taylor, along with many others, believes in the importance of dedicated, diverse groups of people taking charge in society’s day to day struggles, especially when it comes to how they’ve greatly benefitted Voices Café itself.   

“[It’s] because of the people in this congregation, many of them women, saying ‘How do we live our values?’” Taylor said. “And I’ve been really inspired by the commitment and the passion of many individuals here.”

Voices Café and UU Westport help the town implement change by reaching a variety of generations.  

“Everyone sits at the welcome table. Not just adults, not just folks who are coming from one demographic,” Taylor said. “Everyone sits at the welcome table.”

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Elsa D’Elia ’25, Staff Writer
Staff Writer Elsa D’Elia ’25 joined Advanced Journalism after really enjoying Introduction to Journalism. “I found a style of writing that I was super comfortable with,” D’Elia said. “So I wanted to join the class on a more, like, official basis.” D’Elia spent half of her summer working as a camp counselor for five-year-olds at Camp Mahackeno run by the YMCA and then she took off to Vermont where she vacationed with her family.  “I write a lot when I have free time,” D’Elia said. “It is an activity that is enjoyable for me and allows me to be creative.”

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    Dayle BrownsteinDec 14, 2023 at 3:24 am

    Thanks for the story ladies. We (at UU Westport) would love to see new faces at our many musical events (including Voices Cafe, which is hosting the stunning singers of Windborne on Dec. 16.)